Posted 2011-06-29 13:48 under music, visualization, timeline
I've been working on a new timeline visualization tool that will be online soon. As a demo case, I have been using the composition dates of operas by three composers I happen to like: Bellini, Verdi, and Wagner. Looking at their production visually reveals some interesting patterns.
First, the time line below shows all of Verdi's operas by year of composition, one per row:
The S-shape of this interesting, slower at the top, increasing to a rapid rate of about one opera per 18 months in the middle, and declining after Aida.
In hindsight, this is to be expected, since you would expect progress to be slower at the beginning, as he was still learning his skill, and faster as his skill increased and more commissions came in. Late in his career, he may have lost some inspiration, or become tired. I've started reading Julian Budden's biography of Verdi to find out more. Even though the pattern makes sense, it did not occur to me just looking at the dates.
The second diagram, below, superimposes Wagner's operas on top of Verdi's, and collapses the view to save space (the tool allows you to look at timelines in either format by clicking a checkbox):
What is intriguing here is the relative development of both composers. Their careers overlapped almost exactly, Wagner slightly before (again, something I did not know). Their early operas are, to my ears, very similar to the style of their day -- Verdi's "Nabucco" isn't that far off from some Rossini and Bellini, and Wagner's "Rienzi" is in style similar to romantic German works such as those by Weber.
But around the time of Verdi's "Ballo in Maschera", which I do not find that stylistically different from his early works, Wagner wrote "Tristan und Isolde", which is in a different sound world from his early works. I'd like the opinions of any music experts on this, but I find it striking. Again, the visualization made this apparent to me in a way that the dates in text did not.
This timeline visualization tool will be online soon, free for anybody to use. I'm hoping people will create timelines of topics they are are interested in, and allow everyone to find patterns by superimposing different timelines on top of each other.